Creators Are Burning Out 🔥
This publication is a personal reflection on my experience as a content creator on a real problem affecting many creators across the space. From small to big creators, this issue needs attention.
In this post, I’m going to share what I think are the structural reasons why creators are burning out, where the platforms are failing to empower and take care of their creators, and have experienced it myself, I’ll share some things a creator can do and understand to avoid burning out.
You might have heard about creator burnout, experienced it yourself, or perhaps you haven’t. But with more people adopting content creators as a line of business, this is becoming a common problem among the creator community. In my opinion, it all comes down to creators not having enough tools or control over the platforms they operate to self-sustain as businesses, forcing them to hustle to exhaustion. And there’s no reason for that to happen.
A bit of a backstory, back in 2016, I started to be extremely active on Instagram and Facebook. Back then, we started a handmade jewelry brand business, initially selling and distributing via Etsy while using Instagram and Facebook to share and build community. Immediately after we joined, it came to our attention that Instagram will not organically promote any of our posts unless we pay advertisement.
All of this was just about when Instagram was releasing Stories, and both FB and Instagram were not as saturated as they are today. As soon as stories were out, our post-engagement dropped to nothing. I ran so many engagement experiments & learned a lot in the process but yet, the only thing that really worked was targeted ads on Instagram or Facebook. And they worked extremely, really well if you knew what you’re doing, but that’s not the point.
My wife pivoted her art career as a digital artist two years later, and Instagram was her go-to platform for distribution for the first years. We tried Behance, Dribble, Tumblr & Artstation, but nothing seemed as much community-driven as Instagram. And in some ways, to this day, it’s where she has most of her core community. But that time around, we didn’t pay for any ad, and we found a way to make it grow organically by “hacking the algorithm” all the time. And that’s the issue.
For those who are not content creators or familiar with how Instagram works when you use it as part of your strategy, the so-called “algorithm” - or how platforms categorize and choose to distribute (or not) your content to your audience, changes all the time, without us creators knowing.
On platforms like Instagram or TikTok, this “algorithm” is an extremely important discovery and has nothing to do with the content quality. And, I cannot stretch it enough, the “algorithm” does not define how good of a creator you are nor is a testament to the quality of your content”; it’s just a “creativity agnostic” machine code advert consumption-optimized to maximize ad revenue.
Your content engagement does not indicate how good you are as a content creator, but how good you are at either guessing how the “algorithm” works or how good you are at hacking it. Having great content helps tremendously on top of that.
From one day to the next Thanos snaps his fingers and -puff - it’s all gone. That fear is an awfull feeling to have as a contnet creator.
“Hacking the Algorithm” is something that’s driving content creators and businesses to the ground. Creators are struggling to make an insane amount of effort to capture attention in an over-saturated platform. I know so many creators posting every day, stressed out to figure what’s the next trend that will change everything. Imagine Reels are getting prioritized; you are a graphic designer using Instagram to reach new clients. Suddenly, your posts don’t reach anyone because the platform you once entrusted your business to wants Reels to compete with TikTok.
I often like to describe it as moving to a country where you don’t speak the language. After a few months of effort, you manage to learn a bit to manage yourself; you are happy and content. But one day, you go to bed to wake up the next day to realize that the locals no longer use the language you learned. It’s a completely new one. Imagine that randomly happens every few months. Imagine you are a creator or a small brand making a living out of your creations, art, creative craft. How damaging that is for your business.
We can look at cases like Casey Neistat, who posted amazing daily movies, almost 600 days in a row, Matt D'Avella, PewDiePie, etc. All of them are huge creators. They are well to be considered creators royalty, and they all agree on the same. It’s ok to slow down; it’s, in fact, the best thing a creator can do. Imagine how this can affect a young creator, someone sustaining a family or business, but not yet built an audience.
I saw creators go to great lengths to fight the algorithm, keep their business afloat doing everything, and even expending money into ads that were leading to nothing. That’s why we need to build support structures for creators, consider mental health issues, bake into our products, be fair with the rules & extremely transparent. Some platforms like Facebook and Instagram, in my opinion, fail to do so.
So having a strong finance background, I realized that it was time to diversify the distribution, to reduce risk, and we started a YouTube channel and a Patreon at the same time. Was one of the best decisions we ever made. The YouTube thing, not the Patreon (but that’s a different story).
The only mistake we made coming from Instagram was trying to produce a lot of content as if we were on Instagram. We were doing 4 videos a week, meaning working all weekends, producing exclusive content for Patreon, and repurposing a lot of content for TikTok & Twitter. It was a nightmare. Only because of F.O.M.O all creators have, or F.O.M.E (fear of missing everything) as I call it.
We soon realized how different YouTube, for example, was and how great this platform is for creators. We had to start producing fewer videos a month due to burnout. We went to 3 videos a month, then to 2, to 1. To our surprise, we were getting more views on YouTube and more business opportunities than ever before.
We quit all platforms for almost 90 days and this was the result
⚡ YouTube views went up. Way up, a few videos got trending
⚡ Instagram reminded the same. No followers left; when we posted the first time after those days, the post did excellent, better than any other post. Same for the stories and posts in the coming weeks. But then Instagram started pushing Reels.
⚡Patreon didn’t change too much. We stop charging patreons anyway, but not many left.
⚡ Twitter, well, we never cared too much. But we saw some growth.
⚡ On the revenue side, we noticed more than any other month. Mostly driven by YouTube, kind of exploring a bit.
The reason why is because YouTube is a better distribution tool for creators, and yes, making YouTube videos is super hard. But it’s not late to start; you’ll get better with time. The platform does not punish you for being “bad” or not consuming. It rewards you long-term, provides you all the tools you need to thrive. Also, YouTube is basically a big search engine, with a great community aspect (except in comments) and where creators can turn to share experiences, ideas, and education freely.
Our Patreon, on the other side, was great, but it requires higher effort to maintain, as you need to add a constant value to your audience to succeed. Truth be told, anyone with a Patreon page knows how hard it is to build a community, a recurrent community. Only a few pioneers in their niche (those who came first) really make it. But that’s also a great thing. The average creator struggles to get the juice out of Patreon.
With so many platforms, content to be planned, made, edited, drawn, designed, recorded, etc. It is not hard to end up burning out. It’s 7PM on a Friday, and I’m still writing this. And kind of dumb coming from someone that experienced burnout first hand.
My pointers on how not to burnout, here we go:
👉 Remember to take breaks, always. If you don’t have at least two full weekends free a month, there’s something wrong.
👉 Diversify platforms. Don’t rely only on one.
👉 Don’t go the other way and spread too thin. I would say 3 max (YT+IG+Twitter, or IG+TikTok+Twitch or YT, IG Patreon)
👉 Repurpose your content as much as you possibly can. If you make a YT vid, chop it up in images, Reels, YT Shorts, sound bites, a few stories.
👉 Choose the one that suits your content best as the main one, the other will support.
👉 Concentrate 60% of your content efforts on your main platform.
👉 Don’t post every day. Plan your content. Even if it’s once a month.
👉 Build slowly, one in a few thousand makes it in a second. 1 video a month, is 12 in a year, that’s really good. Ramp up slowly
👉 Don’t mind the algorithm. Post for people, not for robots or AI’s
👉 Ask for help and delegate if you can.
👉 Create a Newsletter ( I love SubStack + the power of BYOA)
👉 Diversify your earning streams using monetization tools available.
👉 Look for at least 4 different revenue streams. Imagine YT Ads revenue represents, on average, only 5% of any creator’s income.
👉 Don’t jump to the next new platform right away; give it time to mature till you figure how it fits into your strategy.
👉 Don’t copy trends; you are most likely to be late to the party.
👉 Evaluate what would happen if you quit content creator for a month. You’ll realize is not that bad.
👉 Take breaks, always
Figuring out how to use a platform shouldn’t be for any creator a full-time job. No reason for creators to waste any energy trying to decipher the hidden rules of the game. So when I’m reading a company like Facebook is willing to pay $1 Billion to creators, I cannot help to be skeptical and concerned. I will write a complete article just to cover this.
Early this year (2021), with my co-founder Brian we started paak.io in what to empower creators, help them grow their business and self-sustain. We are now building for The Creator Economy as content creator for content creators.
Being a content creator requires a lot of effort, production, design, and energy. Some content creators are also running a creative business or service, which adds an extra layer of complexity, and every creator is different. So both platforms and new companies in the spaces should aim to make it easy for creators to operate and thrive.
We need platforms to not only daily reward creators but also to provide them with tools to grow and self-sustain as a business without being afraid that they will lose everything the next day just because someone up there flipped a switch. Most of the creators I followed in the past 10 years, my creator heroes/role models, had some story of burnout episode.
We all need to be building better tools to empower all creators, current and next generation of creators, so they can operate as a business without the unnecessary hassle. At the end of the day, we will all benefit from it.
And don’t take my word for it, as a content creator, you know.
So if you are reading this as a content creator in the travel & lifestyle space, and want to get to know a pretty cool brand to work with, be sure to check us out at 👉 paak.io
And if you are a brand or startup looking forward to better work with creators, don’t be a stranger, and reach out!